Author: Christian

Why I Closed a Cold Case

Why I Closed a Cold Case

DNA is solving cold cases everywhere. One true-crime writer thinks that’s a tricky path to tread.

By Daniel J. Siegel

A few years ago, a detective came by my office with a sealed report on a cold case—a missing person who was found to be dead, presumably from natural causes. In fact, that person had been alive and well, as someone knew to look, so the man said.

The detective had a long face. “But,” he said, “we still haven’t been able to find him.”

I nodded. “How many cold cases are unsolved?”

“One,” he said. “Right here in New York.”

I asked what had happened to make the case so intractable.

“This is just one of them,” he said.

“What are the odds that this one is so different from the other one?”

“Very slim,” he said. “But it makes it hard for me to move on to something that has a better chance of solving it, because I don’t have that case to solve.”

“If I were one of your detectives, I would just close this one and go to work on the next one. But I can’t do that, because I don’t have the right cases.”

He thought about it for a minute, then nodded. “Okay. But I want to know if you have any ideas about the next case.”

My instinct was to go out and do a cold case. But my instinct never seems to have been right. It was always wrong.

A good reason to close a cold case, I think, is that it’s a dead end.

We know we have one case that we can’t solve.

I’ve never understood why. To me, it was always one of the most rewarding things in the world to solve a cold case and know that we knew who (or what) had committed the crime.

But, of course, sometimes the one case

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